Set during one academic year, Nicolas Philibert's heart-melting documentary chronicles events in a single-class village school deep in rural Auvergne. Teacher Georges Lopez marshals a dozen or so 4-10 year olds, careful to balance educational basics with fun-filled pursuits (tobogganing, picnics).
Exhibiting a sharp eye for time and place, Philibert attunes his film to the gentle rhythms of pastoral life, its rare composure guaranteed to soothe wrinkled city brows. Even better, the French helmer's presence in the classroom goes almost unnoticed, the kids only sneaking a mischievous glance at the camera when they've been caught misbehaving.
Not that they need validation or support. Lopez, a tutor with 35 years of experience, believes in softly talking problems through, with his serenity, rectitude and calm authority winning the children's affections. Just look at the final scene, the kids saying goodbye for the holidays. It's a lump-in-throat killer.